A Stylist and Designers Create the Quintessential Made-in-Calgary Fashion Collection

Calgary fashion stylist Leah Van Loon and six of Calgary’s top designers collaborate to create six designs that push the envelope.

In Leah Van Loon’s nearly 20 years as a Calgary-based fashion stylist, she has had the opportunity to work with many prominent local fashion and accessories designers in various roles, including collaborator, stylist, mentor and muse. But, in the fashion editorials she has styled for various magazines and websites, she has never felt she was able to showcase local designers’ work to its fullest.

“I wanted to find a way for me to work with the designers specifically and provide an opportunity for us to work more closely,” she says. So she decided to take a different approach and create an editorial feature around the work, giving it centre stage, allowing the designers to not be bound to a specific season, client or artistic constraint of any kind.

Acting as contributing fashion editor for Avenue, Van Loon collaborated with six of Calgary’s most celebrated designers — Lauren BaglioreAndrea BlaisHaithem ElkadikiPaul HardyKat Marks and Lara Presber — to create iconic pieces that would not only represent each designer individually but also work in context of the other designs featured.

“It was really an opportunity to work together in terms of a stylist and a designer,” says Van Loon. “Often, stylists will direct designers if there’s something specific they want for an editorial, which is sort of where I was coming from.”

Van Loon met with each designer to discuss their own brand identity and artistic direction. She encouraged risk-taking, and, since the designs were never intended to be practical or even necessarily wearable, full artistic exploration was key.

“A lot of things have to be considered when you’re doing something for a photo shoot, as opposed to for someone to wear in real life,” Van Loon says. “For this, I really wanted it to be something a little bit more extreme, something a bit more editorial and something that you wouldn’t necessarily see walking down the street. Something special.”

As a fashion designer who is also a very busy Calgary-based architect, it’s no surprise structure is a key component to Lara Presber’s designs. It was with this background knowledge that Van Loon encouraged Presber to create a piece that would not only incorporate her aesthetic but also be something she’d never normally do.“I feel like I’m quite conservative and modest and my clothing is quite elegant and usually professional for the office,” says Presber.To break free from this mould, she chose to create something a bit more revealing. Inspired by one of her favourite buildings in Paris, the Foundation Cartier, an obscure architectural gem tucked away in the 14th arrondissement, Presber translated the building’s various layers of grid work to her garment.The dress features a rigid structure, but then uses that framework as a way to break the rules. Sometimes, what is underneath is revealed and you see the grid; sometimes, it’s fully covered — in this case with sequins attached to opaque backing, Presber’s favourite material — and, sometimes, it’s covered with opaque fabric.Not being confined to the need to sell the finished product, Presber was free to design the highly conceptualized dress without constraints. “Sometimes, you get to make something that is just for fun,” she says. “You can make it just for the sake of art.”

Find more of Presber’s work at commute.larapresber.com


This article appears in the September 2015 issue of Avenue Calgary. Subscribe here. 

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